Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Gita Martohardjono

Committee Members

Martin Chodorow

Richard G. Schwartz

Subject Categories

Anthropological Linguistics and Sociolinguistics | Chicana/o Studies | First and Second Language Acquisition | Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics


Bilingualism, ERP, Pupillometry, Heritage Speakers, Latinx, Subject-Object Relative Clause Processing Asymmetry


Models of grammar, processing and acquisition are primarily built on evidence from monolinguals and adult learners of a second language. Heritage speakers, who are bilinguals of a societal minority language, acquire and use their heritage language in informal settings; but who live, work, and are educated in the societal majority language. The differences between heritage speakers and both monolinguals and adult second language learners are extensive: heritage speakers are not educated in the heritage language, their input is typically not from a prestige variety of the heritage language, and they are dominant in the majority language, using it more frequently (Valdés, 1989). Previous research of heritage speaker characterized their grammars as simple, decayed/attrited, and incomplete (Benmamoun, Montrul, & Polinsky, 2010; Scontras, Fuchs, & Polinsky, 2015), and are compared to intermediate second language learner grammars (Montrul, 2005).

The present study: 1) explores the language use and exposure of heritage speakers, 2) examines their performance on metalinguistic tasks, and 3) measures language processing using implicit measures (event-related potentials and pupillometry). Heritage speakers are compared to adult late second language learners living and working in a second language dominant society from the same community. The study focuses on fluent Spanish and English Latinx bilinguals living in the anglophone US. Spanish heritage speakers are appropriately compared to their time-apparent parents (English speaking Latinx immigrants who moved to the anglophone US in adulthood). Online language processing of subject- and object-relative clauses are examined as the subject-object relative clause processing asymmetry has been well-established in both Spanish and English, is early acquired, and is not confounded by prescriptive rules or literacy.